A Republican Senate leader teased plans to use the looming showdown over the debt ceiling to push the Biden administration to reform entitlement programs, Bloomberg reports.
South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, told reporters on Tuesday that the party may leverage a showdown over the debt ceiling to overhaul retirement programs.
“There’s a set of solutions there that we really need to take on if we’re going to get serious about making these programs sustainable and getting this debt bomb at a manageable level before it’s too late,” Thune said.
“There are things that you can do in the area of reforms, that don’t impact people who are retired today, or nearing retirement age,” he said, later adding, “Social Security, there are things that you can do, you know, phasing in retirement age, there are other things that are probably more politically fraught.”
Thune also mentioned that “there are things you could do in the area of Medicaid.”
“It’s a program that really ought to be more distributed in terms of the decision-making resources,” he said. “And, of course, there are lots of ideas about how to create more competition and options and choice within Medicare,” the health program for the elderly and disabled.
Thune said the party does not want the country to default on its debt by opposing the debt ceiling but argued that bipartisan reforms were necessary.
“Typically, I think there’s been a fairly broad bipartisan understanding that default’s not an option,” he said. “But at the same time I think there’s also an understanding that this does create an opportunity, particularly if the pressure’s on one side to deliver that outcome.”
“Telling the middle class out of the gate, before the new Congress has even begun, that working to override their will and hollow out the benefits they have earned throughout their lives is a stone-cold non-starter,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates told Bloomberg.
Bats said the midterm elections showed that the public “overwhelmingly rejected efforts to gut Medicare and Social Security” and yet Thune “is recommitting to doing exactly that.”